Friday, May 11, 2007


ou never know how a birding hike is going to turn out. Woke up at 5:15 this morning to the sound of thunder and heavy rain beating on the roof and thought, "Shit." But the downpour had already diminished to a patter by the time I was clean and dressed, and the weather guy said the t-storms would be intermittent and clearing by mid-morning, so I decided that I'd take the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail down to Bayonne and see what might be out despite the weather.

The patter petered to a spritz, and then cleared out completely before my train left Hoboken, and though overcast, the light was going to be sufficient for my purposes.

And am I ever glad I gave it a shot, as Gregg Park was avian bedlam. The south end of the escarpment -- always good for a few Wood Warblers -- yielded no fewer than ten species of bright mites, all within the terminal 500 square feet: Black-and-white, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Blue, Blackpoll, Redstart, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped and Northern Parula. Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Kingbird and White-throated Sparrow were also milling in the same space. I had to take a break at one point because it was such absolute psychedelic chaos -- focus on that flash of yellow, and -- zip! -- there goes a blur of orange through your sight line. Turn for that, and blue blazes in your peripheral vision. I nearly got whiplash.

A host of thrushes as well: One tableau contained Hermit, Wood and Veery (Ovenbird, too) all sharing one little hollowing in the trees. Veery was a first for me in the Garden State.

All tallied, I turned up over 50 species in two hours and ten minutes, scarcely covered three quarters of a mile, and the only raindrops that hit me were the occasional ones shaken down by squirrels.

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